Thursday, February 23, 2017

Democrats: Talk To Older Voters About GOP Plan To Repeal Medicare Benefits

The Affordable Care Act (ACA)  not only provides affordable access to health insurance for working-age Americans and their families, it also provides older Americans covered by Medicare and Medicaid a list of additional covered benefits. The ACA, a.k.a.Obamacare, improved Medicare coverage, boosted taxes and reduced program spending. Older Americans on Medicaid also would face a significant loss of benefits, because any effort to repeal Obamacare would affect the law’s major expansion of Medicaid, including how Washington pays states for administering the program.

For starters, the ACA greatly expanded the roster of tests and procedures that Medicare enrollees can get with little if any cost to make sure enrollees are healthy and to help them stay that way. Medicare’s list of so-called wellness provisions includes many items added by the ACA:
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm screening
  • Alcohol misuse screening and counseling
  • Bone mass measurements
  • Breast cancer screening (mammograms)
  • Cardiovascular disease (behavioral therapy)
  • Cardiovascular disease screening
  • Cervical and vaginal cancer screening
  • Colorectal cancer screening
  • Depression screening
  • Diabetes screening and self-management training
  • Glaucoma tests
  • Hepatitis C screening test
  • HIV screening
  • Lung cancer screening
  • Medical nutrition therapy
  • Obesity screening and counseling
  • Prostate cancer screening
  • Sexually transmitted infections screening and counseling
  • Shots (flu, pneumococcal, and Hepatitis B)
  • Tobacco use cessation counseling
  • “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit
  • Yearly “Wellness” visit
Good health does cost money, of course, but so does having to treat people who have not been taking care of themselves. Perhaps all of these measures would survive the repeal process. However, considering that some of these benefits might disappear, Medicare enrollees ought to work with their doctors right now to make sure they’re taking full advantage of these wellness benefits.

Another main Obamacare feature has been its reduction in out-of-pocket spending in Part D Medicare prescription drug plans. This has been accomplished through the elimination of the so-called “donut hole” by 2020. Medicare says enrollees have saved more than $2,000 per person, on average, because of this single change.

It’s quite possible, of course, that the donut hole will be totally gone by the time the “replace” components of “repeal and replace” actually have taken effect. Given the shouts from both parties about high drug prices, it seems unlikely that Republicans would have much appetite for being tagged with efforts to make people spend more money on prescription medicines.

Obamacare’s other big Medicare impact came via financial improvements it put in place to help the program. It raised a bunch of taxes, including requiring high-income wage earners to pay higher Medicare payroll taxes and stiff premium surcharges for Medicare Part B and D premiums. Health providers and Medicare Advantage insurance plans were also willing to accept lower payment levels from Medicare in exchange for the law’s provisions that would expand their access to more insurance customers.

Before the passage of the ACA, the Medicare trust fund that pays claims for Part A hospital and nursing home expenses had been projected to run short of funds by 2017. The ACA has pushed that date out more than 10 years.

Republicans reportedly want to do away with many of these taxes. Unless other funding streams are created to replace them, the longer-term finances of the program would be at greater risk. Ironically, these actions would “force” Republicans to cut health care spending to curb runaway deficits.

As actual GOP plans come into sharper focus, sharp Medicare battle lines will form for politicians and the public alike.  Expect the proposals to come coated in friendly sounding packages that tout health care improvements. But it will be crucial to look inside the packages to get an understanding of whether the Medicare program that would emerge from their enactment is one you want to have.

READ MORE: How plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act could affect Medicare

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Race For DNC Chair Tightens

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley announced Saturday he has decided to withdraw his bid to be the Democratic Party's next national chairman and back Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison to lead the party.
"While it was a tremendous honor to run for DNC Chair over the past few months, I am proud to throw my support behind Keith so we can ensure that the next Chair of the DNC is dedicated to investing in and strengthening state parties and ensuring that the DNC is an accountable organization," New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley said in a statement today. "As I've talked to the DNC membership, it's clear Keith has widespread support, and I know as our next DNC Chair Keith will successfully unite and grow our party."

Ellison said he is "proud" to have Buckley's support. He added that he asked Buckley to "lead our effort to provide the support and resources the state parties need in a new and innovative 57 state strategy." (There are 50 state parties and seven in the territories and the District of Columbia.)
Ellison has the backing of many Democratic Party leaders, including U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (MA), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Al Franken (MN),  and numerous other party leaders including members of Congress and state Democratic Party leaders.

CNN announced Friday it will host a debate next week for the candidates running for chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The event in Atlanta is being called "Debate Night: Democratic Leadership Debate" and is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET, just days before Democratic officials vote on a new chairman at the DNC's meeting in the same city Feb. 23-26.
"CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash and New Day anchor Chris Cuomo will moderate the primetime event live from the CNN Center in Atlanta, Georgia just days before the Democratic Party chooses a new national leader," the network said in a press release. "The candidates will debate their visions and strategies for the 2018 midterm elections, how to rebuild the Democratic Party and the role of the DNC under the Trump administration."
Since mid-January, the DNC chair candidates have participated in four "DNC Future Forums," the last of which was last weekend, as well as several additional forums host by various activist groups.


Monday, February 13, 2017

DNC Chair Candidate Forum In Baltimore

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) held it's fourth and final regional day long 'Future Forum' in Baltimore last Saturday, in advance of its February 23rd-26th meeting to elect new party leadership. As with the first three forums, DNC Chair candidates, DNC members, guest speakers, and other Democrats discussed how the party goes forward after losing to Republicans, over the last 8 years, more than 1,000 state and federal level legislative and executive branch seats held by Democrats.  

Ten candidates for DNC chair lined up on stage for 90 minutes to discuss their views on how the party goes forward:
  • Sally Boynton Brown, Executive Director of the Idaho Democratic Party
  • Ray Buckley, Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party
  • Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana
  • Keith Ellison, U.S. House of Representatives, Minnesota 5th District
  • Jehmu Greene of Texas, Democratic strategist, Fox News political analyst, and former Rock The Vote president
  • Jaime Harrison, Chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party
  • Tom Perez, 26th United States Secretary of Labor
  • Peter Peckarsky, a Wisconsin attorney and Democratic progressive activist
  • Sam Ronan of Ohio, activist and Air Force veteran
  • Robert Vinson Brannum, Veterans Committee chair of the NAACP’s Washington D.C. branch
When they meet on February 23–26, 2017, the 447 members of the Democratic National Committee will elect a new Chairperson and other party officers.
The DNC chairperson candidates offered opinions during their 90 minute discussion forum on why over 1,000 of the party's incumbent office holders lost elections to Republicans during the 2010 - 2016 election years.

GOP Bill To Repeal ACA - Obamacare

Republicans in the House (Tea Party) Freedom Caucus voted among themselves Monday night to band together and support only a 2017 Affordable Care Act (ACA) "Obamacare" repeal bill that is at least as comprehensive as the repeal bill passed by the Republican controlled House and Senate in 2015.
“If it’s less than the 2015 [bill], we will oppose it,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) told a small group of reporters Monday night.
By insisting the 2015 repeal bill effectively be copied as the initial 2017 repeal bill, the GOP again confirmed the party's hard line intent to repeal affordable healthcare for millions of Americans.

The 2015 ACA repeal bill was passed by the Republican controlled House and Senate in late 2015, but was not signed by President Barack Obama when it reached his desk in January 2016.

The 2015 repeal bill rolled back Medicaid expansion funding to pre-2010 levels and ended the mandate for businesses over a certain size to offer group health insurance to employees along with the subsidies that helped pay for the mandated insurance, plus more...

Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) Repeal Bill of 2015 (December 7, 2015 @

Arctic Sea Ice Volume Collapsing

Polar weather has been far warmer this winter than any winter on record, shocking scientists who are watching sea ice volume decline to record lows for the date. Winds have driven large amounts of the oldest ice out of the Arctic while the weather has been far too warm for months for the ice to thicken like it normally does by February. And now the north pole is fifty degrees F above normal. Again.

Read the full story at Daily Kos:

Saturday, February 11, 2017

8 In 10 Americans Support Social Security

AARP: Fifty-five million working Americans do not have a way to save for retirement out of their regular paycheck. With many American workers anxious about their financial security, there is strong support among conservatives and private sector workers for policies that would make it easier for workers to save for retirement, according to a new AARP survey.

The nationally representative survey of private sector workers ages 18-64 shows that 8 in 10 (80%) support state-facilitated plans designed to help employees save their money for retirement. There is also broad agreement among American workers of all races, ethnicities, and political ideologies that elected officials should help small businesses offer their employees an easy way to save for retirement.

Other key findings from the survey include:
  • Three in four (74%) private sector workers feel very or somewhat anxious about having enough money to live comfortably through their retirement years. Just a quarter say they are not anxious. Anxiety is high among all racial groups, with large majorities of Latinos (77%), whites (74%), African Americans (73%), and Asian Americans (70%) all saying they are anxious they will not be able to financially support a comfortable retirement.
  • Eighty-three percent (83%) agree elected officials should do more to make it easier for workers to save for retirement.
  • Eighty-one percent (81%) of political conservatives agree that elected officials should do more to make it easier for workers to save for retirement, as do eighty-six percent (86%) of moderates, and eighty-nine percent (89%) of liberals.
  • Eighty-four percent (84%) of private sector workers age 18-64 say elected officials should make it easier for small businesses to offer their employees a way to save for retirement.
  • Seventy-six percent (76%) or three in four political conservatives agree that elected officials should make it easier for small businesses to offer retirement plans to their employees, as do about four in five moderates (85%), and liberals (90%).
This survey was conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago with funding from AARP. Data were collected using AmeriSpeak®, NORC’s probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. household population including the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and a supplemental address-based sample from TargetSmart. Interviews for this survey about retirement security were conducted online and via phone between November 1, 2016, and January 16, 2017, with 3,920 adults ages 18-64 employed in private sector industries. Interviews were conducted in English, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Republicans Looking For Obamacare Replacement Should Work With Democrats

NY Magazine: "The Republican Party, faced with the catastrophic real-world consequences of repealing the Affordable Care Act, is divided over how to proceed. Some nervous Republicans want to figure out what they want to put in place of Obamacare.

Senator Mike Lee insists that Republicans repeal Obamacare first, before they decide on an alternative. And his reason is straightforward: If people saw the Republican alternative, they might not like it! “There is a lot less agreement about what comes next,” he tells Julie Rovner. “If we load down the repeal bill with what comes next, it’s harder to get both of them passed.”

A Republican ad promises, “Health insurance that provides more choices and better care at lower costs, provides peace of mind to people with preexisting conditions … House Republicans have a plan to get there, without disrupting existing coverage.”

But when people find out what Republicans plan to put in place of Obamacare they will see the Republican "Repeal and Replace" ads were less than empty promises. It's time for Democrats to promise their "replacement" for Obamacare - Medicaid for All.

Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) has introduced his bill, The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act," in every Congress since 2003. It is co-sponsored by more than 50 Members of Congress and support continues to grow. If Republicans want to repeal and replace Obamacare, tell them to replace it with Medicare for All.

Rep John Conyers: "Half a century ago, addressing the convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights, Martin Luther King Jr. declared, "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."
"I strongly agree with Dr. King, which is why I have been a firm supporter of President Obama’s landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA has resulted in 17.6 million uninsured people gaining health coverage as the law’s coverage, and minorities have seen the largest increase in insurance coverage: About four million Latino adults gained coverage, an 11.5% drop in the uninsured rate, while nearly three million African-Americans gained insurance, a 10.3% reduction. Another seven million white adults became insured, representing a 6% drop.

But there is still much more to be done to eliminate injustice in health care in the United States, while making our system more cost-efficient. The United States still spends almost twice as much per person on health care as any other country, yet our key outcomes – life expectancy, infant mortality and preventable deaths – too often lag behind our peers. A recent Commonwealth Fund study ranked the U.S. healthcare system dead last among 11 highly developed countries in terms of quality, efficiency and access to health care.

That is why I am leading the charge in the House of Representatives for single-payer, universal healthcare system.  By implementing a “Medicare for All" system – the standard for health care throughout the industrialized world – we can achieve hundreds of billions of dollars in cost savings that can be used to cover the nation's remaining uninsured and upgrade coverage for millions of underinsured citizens. More and more people across the country understand that a single-payer healthcare system is the only way to guarantee quality care and at the same time reduce medical costs. A poll from [date] showed that more than half of Americans -- including 80 percent of Democrats and a quarter of Republicans -- support expanding health reform to "Medicare for All."

That is why I have introduced my bill, The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act, in every Congress since 2003. It is co-sponsored by more than 50 Members of Congress and support continues to grow. "

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Sanders And Cruz Debate Healthcare Repeal For American Workers

Senators Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz debated the future of health care in the US Tuesday night. The town hall debate highlighted some of the issues surrounding the GOP's committment to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- a sweeping health care law that diectly covers some 20 million Americans as well as who have health insurance through their employers. The evening began with each lawmaker laying out starkly different views of the controversial law.

"If you are one of 20 million Americans who finally has received health insurance, forget about it -- you're gone," Sanders warned about repealing Obamacare. "That means when you get sick, you ain't gonna be able to go to the doctor. And when you end up in the hospital, you'll be paying those bills for the rest of your life, or maybe you'll go bankrupt."

Cruz, a Texas Republican who made his name in national politics by fiercely opposing the health care law, said former President Barack Obama made a series of promises that were broken.

"If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor ... Millions discovered that was not true," Cruz said.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Democrats Framing The Story Of Us?

The Story of Us by David Leonhardt - NYT Op-Ed Columnist

If any number of things had gone the other way — James Comey, Russian interference, a less distrusted nominee — the Democrats might now be starting their third straight term in office. And of course Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote, by no small margin.

So I understand why many sober Democrats have urged the party not to exaggerate the political lessons from the 2016 election. But it would also be a mistake to underreact.

Presidential politics are, by far, the party’s strong suit — and it still couldn’t beat Donald Trump. In addition to the White House, Republicans hold the House, the Senate and about two out of every three governorships and state legislatures.

Monday, February 6, 2017

GOP Use Double-Speak To Hide Gutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid

LATimes: Politicians aiming to cut Social Security and Medicare use weasel words to hide their plans. Let's call them on it.

In this era in which the Orwellian manipulation of language by politicians to say the opposite of what they mean has reached a fever pitch, we should be especially wary when conservatives hide their plans to cut Social Security and Medicare benefits behind a smokescreen of euphemism.

Jared Bernstein, a fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and a former chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden, has put in a plea to journalists to call out policy makers when they pull this stunt—and not to empower politicians by doing the same thing.

Read the full story at the LATimes.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

DNC Chair Candidate Forum In Detroit

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) held it's third of four 'Future Forums' in Detroit Saturday, giving DNC members and other Democrats a chance to speak about how the party goes forward after losing to Republicans, over the last 8 years, more than 1,000 state and federal level legislative and executive branch seats held by Democrats.

The Detroit forum event began at 9 a.m. Saturday and continue throughout the day, featuring guest speakers and candidates for the several DNC leadership positions, including the candidates for DNC chair:
  • Sally Boynton Brown, Executive Director of the Idaho Democratic Party
  • Ray Buckley, Chair of the New Hampshire Democratic Party
  • Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Indiana
  • Keith Ellison, U.S. House of Representatives, Minnesota 5th District|
  • Jehmu Greene, Political Analyst
  • Jaime Harrison, Chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party
  • Tom Perez, 26th United States Secretary of Labor
  • Peter Peckarsky, a Wisconsin attorney and Democratic progressive activist
  • Sam Ronan of Ohio
  • Robert Vinson Brannum, Veterans Committee chair of the NAACP’s Washington D.C. branch
When they meet on February 23–26, 2017, the 447 members of the Democratic National Committee will elect a new chair.

Regional forums with DNC chair candidates have already been held in Phoenix and Houston, and another forum is scheduled for Feb. 11 in Baltimore. Click here to view the recorded live streams of the Detroit, Phoenix and Houston forums.
United Steelworkers Local 1999 President Chuck Jones told attendees of the Detroit Future Forum gathering of Democrats Saturday working class Americans need to be brought back in the fold of the party, arguing that President Donald Trump convinced many likely Democratic voters to switch sides in 2016.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

GOP Agenda To Cut Seniors' Healthcare

Republicans working to repeal the Affordable Care Act are working to stick it to one of the most important voting blocks within the GOP base - Senior Citizens. Based on exit polling, many of the demographics that would be hit hardest by the repeal voted for Trump in the presidential election.

A sizable minority of Americans don’t understand that Obamacare is just another name for the Affordable Care Act, according to a Morning Consult survey. In the survey, 35 percent of respondents said either they thought Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act were different policies (17 percent) or didn’t know if they were the same or different (18 percent). This confusion was more pronounced among people age 18 to 29 and those who earn less than $50,000 — two groups that could be significantly affected by repeal.

Among Republicans, a higher percentage (72 percent) said they knew Obamacare and the A.C.A. were the same, which may reflect the party’s longstanding hostility to the law. Though Republicans were more likely to know that Obamacare is another name for the A.C.A., only 47 percent of them said expanded Medicaid coverage and private insurance subsidies would be eliminated under repeal (compared with 79 percent of Democrats), while 29 percent said Medicaid and subsidies would not be affected and 24 percent said they didn’t know. A large block of Republican voters do not understand repealing Obamacare will affect the popular provisions of the A.C.A. AARP is working to change that political equation.

AARP, the nation’s largest organization of senior citizens, with a membership of 38 million older Americans age 50 and older, announced Monday it was launching a comprehensive campaign to protect Medicare and Medicaid from the GOP's chopping block. Repealing "and replacing" the Affordable Care Act also takes big bites out of Medicare and Medicaid.
“The average senior, with an annual income of under $25,000 and already spending one out of every six dollars on health care, counts on Social Security for the majority of their income and on Medicare for access to affordable health coverage,” wrote AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins in a recent letter to Congress. “We will continue to oppose changes to current law that cut benefits, increase costs, or reduce the ability of these critical programs to deliver on their benefit promises. We urge you to continue to do so as well.”
The GOP's wish list for radical restructuring America's Social Security, Affordable Care, Medicare, and Medicaid benefit programs will literally destroy the quality life earned by America's retired seniors. Here are just two examples of how the GOP's restructuring goals will hit seniors hard with their repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act. One of those proposals would relax or eliminate the ACA’s “age bands” cap. The other would transform Medicaid into a so-called block grant.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Democrats Must Build A 21st Century Party

Robert Reich isn’t the only person to notice that the Democratic Party is in dire straits. All the Democrats in the running to be the Democratic Party's next leader are saying it too.

The former Secretary of Labor and UC Berkeley professor wrote an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle to confront the party with seven hard truths. His conclusion, if they don’t deal with these realities, is harsh: a third party is going to form that will replace them.

Here are those seven realities:

BlogTalkUSA: Eyes Wide Open DemBlogTalk - 01/31/2017

Listen to this week's "Eyes Wide Open DemBlogTalk" talk radio program cohosts Rheana Nevitt Piegols and Michael Handley and their guest Bruce Horst discuss affordable healthcare as the moral choice for Christians. With Republicans about to repeal the Affordable Care Act — labled Obamacare by Republicans — Bruce steps forward from the ranks of Christian Evangelicals to say his fellow Evangelicals have driven him from the church over their stance Christians must oppose legislation that extends healthcare to the poor and children and other Americans denied healthcare because of financial barriers or preexisting health conditions.
Bruce Horst, a former Conservative Evangelical Christian from Texas, caught our interest when he took to Facebook about 2 weeks ago to brilliantly call out his former Conservative Evangelical Christian brethren for cheering the idea of 20 million people losing their health insurance! You will not want to miss this interview that starts at the 30 minute time mark of the recorded program!

Dems to David Brock: Stop Helping, You Are Killing Us

As David Brock attempts to position himself as a leader in rebuilding a demoralized Democratic Party in the age of Trump, many leading Democratic organizers and operatives are wishing the man would simply disappear.

Brock’s political evolution is well-known: the former anti-Clinton right-winger who starting in the late 1990s transformed into a relentlessly pro-Clinton Democratic operative who operates Media Matters for America as well as the American Bridge and Correct the Record super-PACS.

Brock's Correct the Record PAC operation coined and pushed the "Bernie Bros" bashes against supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, trolling them with that meme on social media. Clinton's supporters quickly shared Brock's Bernie Bros memes, virally pushing them into the primary's discourse.

Brock's PAC operation also published opposition articles and ads against Sanders and Donald Trump's GOP opponents during the 2016 primary cycle. Some of the "bad blood" still circulating between Sanders and Clinton supporters tracks back to Brock's less than factual negative attack campaign against Sander and his "Bernie Bros" followers during the primary. Another of Brock's primary goals was to help Trump win the GOP nomination on the theory Trump would be the weakest general election candidate against Clinton.

The friction between Brock and Democrats is widespread among alumni of Senator Bernie Sanders' and President Obama’s campaigns and White House, as well as Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 run. They all say they want Brock to stay far away from the Democrats’ future plans.

“I don’t think David Brock has been helpful to the party to date, and I don’t think he will be a big part of its future,” a former senior Clinton campaign official told The Daily Beast.

Another senior 2016 Clinton aide, who asked not to be named because the ex-staffer did “not want to deal with Brock’s bullshit,” described Brock and his organizations in 2016 as “useless—you might as well have thrown those [tens of] millions of dollars down a well, and then set the well on fire.”

Bottom line, what Democrats across the board seem to be saying about David Brock is, with friends like him, who needs enemies.

Read the full article at the Daily Beast: Dems to David Brock: Stop Helping, You Are Killing Us